Gig Review: Bob Dylan at Nottingham Arena

Words: Jared Wilson
Tuesday 01 November 2022
reading time: min, words

The legend played Nottingham for the first timethis decade as part of his Rough and Rowdy Ways tour...


Bob Dylan and Nottingham. Those two things don’t happen together very often. The legend himself only plays in this city and at this venue roughly twice a decade, this being his first appearance since May 2017 at the venue (before that it was October 2011 and November 2005). Yet in the last month we’ve been graced by an appearance from the man himself and also the theatre tour of The Girl From The North Country, a play set in Bob’s hometown of Duluth, Minnesota and soundtracked - with Bob's blessing - by his greatest hits. 

However, tonight definitely isn’t a night for greatest hits. It’s a night to showcase his latest album Rough and Rowdy Ways, unbelievably the 39th studio album of a career now well into it’s seventh decade. It’s a highly entertaining evening, with a two hour set from one of the greatest icons in American music, ably supported by a backing band of consumate musicians. However, if you came here hoping to hear the bangers you came to the wrong event. The only concessions along those lines are I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight and Gotta Serve Somebody towards the end of the set and the way Bob plays them is almost as jazz blues numbers. Apart from that it’s almost exclusively material from the last decade. One thing you can’t accuse Bob Dylan of is living in the past. 

Many years ago he famously gave over his acoustic guitar for electric. These days he exclusively plays the piano, although his backing band contains two guitarists and a bass player. He stays behind that piano for most of the night two, just twice walking out from behind it to the centre-stage to acknowledge the crowd and lap up the applause.

This is not a night for photography or video either. The tour promoters have worked with a company called Yondr to make an arena this size a ‘phone free space’. This is done by making attendees put your phone in something that looks like a padded pencil case on the way in. Then magnetically locking it until you get out. This might send panic signals to people for whom the idea of two whole hours without your phone sounds horrific, but to be honest I found it refreshing. A crowd of several thousand people all gave this gig their full attention for a couple of hours. You don’t get that very often these days and more’s the pity. 

Bob Dylan played at Nottingham Motorpoint Arena on 28 October 2022.

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